And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
We don’t smoke and we don’t chew and we don’t go with the girls who do!
I went to a Christian college. We had many rules governing our behavior. The point of those rules—admirable—Christian character was goal. The outcome of the rules—the frequently heard chant about smoking might give you a hint about how those rules influenced our hearts.
These two verses serve as both a conclusion and introduction. These verses sum up the believer’s reaction to chapters 1-11. At the same time, these two verses begin the practical application of the truth found in Romans 1-11.
Since, it’s been awhile let me give you a very quick recap of Romans 1-11.
- Humanity is destitute, choosing sin over holiness and alienated from God because of that sin. (Romans 1:18-32)
- Sin affects everyone and everything. No one is exempt from the effects of sin. (Romans 3:10)
- While we were sinners, God made a way for us to become holy by sacrificing His Son as the perfect sacrifice for sin. (Romans 5:8)
- There is one way to be holy. Realizing you are a sinner, admitting that you are unable to be anything else, and relying on God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice to remove the penalty of sin. (Romans 6:23)
- Admitting that your good works or you pedigree is not good enough to change your sinful state apart from the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf. (Romans 10:9-10)
As a child, I begged to watch a particular television show. I was the only person in my family who wanted to watch it—everyone else thought it was ridiculous. Keep in mind, humans had not made it to the moon yet, so the notion of space travel was truly science fiction. Star Trek, was (and still is) one of my favorite TV shows. I had a HUGE crush on Mr. Spock—his green blood and pointy ears intrigued me. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Spock was half human and half Vulcan. Individuals from Vulcan were emotionless, purely rational beings. I wanted to grow up to be just like Mr. Spock. I did not succeed in my efforts at being emotionless but I still strive to make my decisions based on reason and not emotion.
Having an emotional response to God’s mercy and grace is truly appropriate. Grace—undeserved favor—and mercy—compassion and forgiveness when only punishment is due—how can your heart not well up with emotion? It’s overwhelming to think a holy God would look with compassion on my sinful, willful heart. Not just that—God did so much more than NOT punish me—He gave His Son to take the punishment that should be mine and in exchange gave me blessings and favor.
Emotional—you bet! God isn’t looking for an emotional response to His gift.
God’s looking for a deliberate, thoughtful reaction to His goodness. Paul’s words in this passage suggest that God wants more than an emotional response to His grace and mercy. God isn’t looking for your good works—because they aren’t good enough—remember Romans 7? God is looking for a reasonable response—a thoughtful, intellectual response.
God’s looking for your worship.
Worship is a churchy word. We church folks toss it around a lot. We set aside sections of our church services devoted to worship. Since some people can’t sing very well –often in the scramble to include everyone in worship –the person saying the blessing over the offering will remind the congregation that giving is an act of worship. With a sigh of relief, everyone is covered—if you can’t sing you can give—if you can sing and give you’re doubly blessed from all that worship. That’s quite what Paul had in mind.
Paul offers a different take on worship. I warn you—it’s a bit uncomfortable. It requires more than a singing voice, raising you hands as you sing or tossing some change in the offering plate. In these transitional verses, Paul tells the believer the “reasonable” response to God’s goodness is offering ourselves back to Him as an offering.
How does that happen? That is what the rest of Romans is about—the practical response to God’s goodness. I like how The Message paraphrases these two verses:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
Father, teach me true worship. Help me to respond to Your gracious, merciful gift with all of me—with everything I do. Help me to be aware that every act, is an act of worship—not just what I do at church, not just when I feel like it, not just when doing what is right is easy—but everything I do. Father, empower me, by Your Holy Spirit to give myself back to you—help me to embrace the sacrifice You made for me. Help me to respond reasonably in my acts of worship.
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